Chapter One - Attorney-General's Portfolio
This Chapter summarises areas of interest and concern
raised during the Committee's consideration of the Additional Estimates of the
Attorney-General's portfolio for the 2004-2005 financial year.
The Committee again questioned officers from the
Attorney-General's portfolio concerning Mr
his treatment whilst in custody overseas and Mr
Habib's allegations that he had been
tortured. Officers were also questioned as to the possibility of Mr
Habib initiating legal proceedings against
the Commonwealth to claim compensation in connection with his detention by United
States authorities. The Committee also
sought information on why United States
authorities had decided to release Mr Habib
and not proceed with the charges made against him.
The Committee inquired into the legal proceedings
brought against the Commonwealth by former defence service personnel seeking
compensation in relation to the HMAS
Voyager/Melbourne incident of 1964. Officers informed the Committee that many
compensation claims remained outstanding. The Committee was advised that a
significant number of claims had been lodged between 1995 and 2003 that related
to service on HMAS Melbourne. Some 157 cases are
reportedly still before the courts.
Officers from the Attorney-General's Department were
again questioned about the effectiveness of the Family Law Hotline and the Regional
Law Hotline. Officers tabled documents detailing Hotline staffing numbers, number of calls received, expenditure and
number of visits to the Family Law Online website.
Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT)
The Committee sought information on the number of
appointments to the AAT over the preceding 12 month period and the number of vacancies
expected in the first half of the coming year. Officers advised that 34
appointments had been made in the previous 12 months. Officers also advised that
interviews would be conducted over the next few months to fill two deputy
president and three senior members' positions.
The Committee asked a number of questions on the AAT's
determination of applications for review of freedom of information requests.
These questions were taken on notice.
Australian Transaction Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)
Officers from AUSTRAC were questioned on the increase
in unlawful activity in the area of cheque fraud and money laundering. The
Committee heard that the statistical increase in activity was due, at least in
part, to the enhanced ability of AUSTRAC to detect such activity through the
use of increasingly sophisticated technologies.
Officials also informed the Committee that, since June
2004, AUSTRAC had established instruments for the exchange of financial
information with a further 10 countries including Argentina,
Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC)
The Committee sought information on the reasons for the
reclassification of the film 9 Songs
from the X to the R classification. Questions were also asked about the definition
of the term 'sexually explicit intent.' Officers from the OFLC advised that
various factors must be considered when assessing a film for classification,
including content, storyline and context.
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC)
Goward was questioned by the Committee on
the progress of the Striking the Balance:
Women, Men, Work and Family Project. The Committee heard that preliminary
consultations with key stakeholders had recently been completed, community
consultations in Bankstown and
Penrith were underway and that the first discussion paper is expected to be
available in mid-April.
Officers were also questioned about: the impact of the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth): follow-up
work arising out of the Isma-Listen
Report on the elimination of prejudice against Arab and Muslim Australians; and
the extent of HREOC's involvement in DIMIA's Harmony Day Project.
Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)
The Committee questioned officials on the provision of
DPP briefs to counsel from the private bar. Officers advised that there was
policy to increase in-house advocacy. However, the DPP lacked the financial
resources to retain in-house senior counsel of the level required to undertake
some more significant or complex prosecutions, especially given the breadth of
activity which the DPP undertakes. As a result, the DPP occasionally called on
specialist skills from the independent bar.
Officers were also questioned about DPP initiated prosecutions
for state offences for which there is no related charge under Commonwealth law.
Officers explained that investigations initially involving a combination of
state and federal offences can conclude with a finding that the most
appropriate charges to be brought are state offences. A decision would then be
made to refer the case to the relevant state office.
Australian Crime Commission (ACC)
Information was sought by the Committee on areas that
the ACC's strategic criminal intelligence assessment had identified as emerging
areas of criminal threat. Officers advised that the next update would be
completed in September 2005 and undertook to provide the Committee with trend
The Committee questioned officers on the operation of
the ACC's databases as well as on issues including card skimming, motor vehicle
rebirthing and the manufacture of illicit drugs.
Australian Institute of Criminology
and Criminology Research Council
The Committee sought information on staffing costs
associated with the establishment of a drink-spiking hotline for research
purposes. Officers confirmed the cost as being $5,600 for the provision of
staff and the manning of the hotline outside business hours.
Issues concerning the International Violence Against Women survey were raised by the
Committee, particularly in relation to the age group surveyed. The Committee
sought information on why the age group targeted was in the 18 to 69 year age
bracket and did not include 16 to 18 year olds. Officers informed the Committee
that the age range of the group to be surveyed had been determined by an
international committee and that all countries had targeted the same age range.
The results of the survey were tabled at the hearing.
The Committee questioned officers on the operation and
availability to law enforcement agencies of a number of CrimTrac databases.
These included the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System
(NAFIS), the Australian National Child Offender Register (ANCOR) and the
CrimTrac Police Reference System (CPRS). Officers outlined the range of
information contained in the databases and their uses and effectiveness.
Officers also detailed some of the recent upgrades to current systems.
The Committee also raised the issue of access to the
NAFIS database by DIMIA and whether or not the name Cornelia
Rau appeared on the National Names Index
(NNI). Officers advised that NAFIS was a police tool and as such, they did not
believe that DIMIA would have access to the database. The Committee heard that Ms
name was listed in the NNI database. However, officials advised that the
database did not record when Ms Rau's
name was placed on the database.
Australian Federal Police (AFP)
The Committee followed up with officers from the AFP the
previous questions put to officers from the Attorney-General's Department in
respect of Mr Habib.
Officers were questioned on the chronology of events surrounding Mr
Habib's initial capture and detention and
the nature of interviews conducted by the AFP and ASIO in both Pakistan
and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The AFP Commissioner was questioned on a number of
operational issues arising from the murder of Australian
Protective Service Officer Adam Dunning
in the Solomon Islands
in December 2004. The Commissioner confirmed that he was satisfied with the
force protection arrangements that were in place and with the risk assessments
and intelligence resources available to AFP officers.
Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)
The Committee sought information on ASIO's interviews
of Mr Habib
in October 2001. The Director-General of ASIO, Mr
informed the Committee that Mr Habib
had raised allegations of torture at an interview conducted in Pakistan
on 26 October 2001. The
Director-General advised that ASIO did not regard these allegations as
As explained earlier, statements were made by officers
that can be considered as reflecting adversely upon Mr
Habib. The rules of the Senate provide that,
where evidence is given to a Committee which may be considered as reflecting
adversely on a person, the Committee is required to provide that person with a
reasonable opportunity to access and respond to that evidence. The Committee has therefore written to Mr
Habib to extend him an opportunity to respond.
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